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The following claim has been attributed to economist Professor Herakles Polemarchakis.

A couple of years ago, there were more Cayennes circulating in Greece than individuals who declared and paid taxes on an annual income of more than €50,000, a figure only slightly above the vehicle’s list price.

The quote seems to come from the Bulletin of the Economics Research Institute, and is available here.

It has since been picked up by many news organisations, such as

However, the figures behind this claim do not seem to be referenced, and seem to be disputed (again, without references). Indeed, in the "comments" section to the linked article, the following is argued:

In Greece there are 160000 taxpayers who have income over 50000 euros per year. This means that according to this article there must be over 160000 Cayennes in Greece. But based on the local Porsche representative in Greece , from 2000 to 2009 only 1560 Cayennes have been sold in Greece! Where are the rest 159000; The numbers on this article are preposterous. Why mr Polemarchakis is telling lies and why now;

Has anyone followed up on the figures behind this claim? Is it true, or is this a slander on Greek society?

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well, the counterclaim is of course incomplete as it assumes all those with the required income pay their taxes, when the claim hints at the very fact that they probably don't :) – jwenting Nov 7 '11 at 13:20
There is also the possibility that people bought their Porsche's in Italy, France, Spain, or anywhere else in Europe, Asia, Africa, or the rest of the world. Based on the insane tax rates in Greece I can not imagine I would buy anything there either. – Chad Nov 7 '11 at 14:22
So sorry, I have to admit what caught my attention about tjis was that I read it as "are there more GEEKS driving Porche Cayennes than paying high-rate taxes?" – Monkey Tuesday Nov 8 '11 at 10:20
Although most enlightening, Prof. Spinelli's query was not necessary to prove that the claim was a gross exaggeration. Despite that, more important questions are left unanswered, i.e. do all people who own, use and maintain a vulgar supercar such as a Porsche Cayenne pay the taxes they are due? And more importantly: 1. Are they carefully audited? 2.If yes, are they taxed fairly in regards to a society in crisis where the weak are called to pay disproportionate tax burdens? – user5270 Nov 13 '11 at 17:07
up vote 46 down vote accepted

The claim is incorrect by more than an order of magnitude. These are the numbers according to database queries we ran at the General Secreteriat for Information Systems at the Greek Ministry of Finance. In 2010 there were 130.385 taxpayers individually declaring more than €50,000 taxable income. Adding up the numbers of the published 2009 data (tables Π6Α.09 and Π6Β.09) gives a similar figure (138.060 taxpayers). The registry used for issuing the road tax contains 5808 cars with a vehicle identification number corresponding to Porsche (WP0 or WP1).

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Hi, can you provider references for your figures? – Sklivvz Nov 7 '11 at 18:28
The figures come directly from SQL queries I executed on the General Secreteriat for Information Systems database. If Oddthinking can give us a table reference I can also check the corresponding (draft) 2010 tables. – Diomidis Spinellis Nov 7 '11 at 19:40
Is there a Greek citizen nicknamed Bobby Tables? – user5341 Nov 7 '11 at 20:21
@RandolfRichardson and all: I don't know why this has not been mentioned already, but Mr. Diomidis Spinellis is actually the General Secretery for Information Systems at the Greek Ministry of Finance. It's his own tables he runs queries on. – user5232 Nov 8 '11 at 10:14
@George: Well-spotted! It appears Prof. Spinellis is the recently-retired General Secretary of Information Systems at the Greek Ministry of Finance. It is hard to truly prove celebrity accounts are really who they claim to be, but I can confirm his email address is consistent with his profile. Looks legit! Welcome, Prof. Spinellis. (You are also a four time winner of the International Obfuscated C Code Contest? WOW!) – Oddthinking Nov 8 '11 at 12:12

This just made BBC news again, so bit more data on the myth:

"A couple of years ago, there were more Cayennes circulating in Greece than individuals who declared and paid taxes on an annual income of more than 50,000 euros, a figure only slightly above the vehicle's list price" is a quote widely reported in mainstream media and on blogs worldwide.

It came from Prof Herakles Polemarchakis, a former economics adviser to the prime minister of Greece, and now a lecturer at Warwick University in the UK.

But when asked, Prof Polemarchakis said his remark was casual, based on what had been circulating in policy circles in Greece a few years back.

He said the only hard fact he was aware of was "the per capita number of Cayennes in [the Greek city of] Larissa was twice that of Cayennes in the OECD countries".

So what are the facts?

In 2010, there were 311,428 people with declared incomes of more than 50,000 euros (£41,260) paying tax in Greece.

It was a figure that made a spokesman at Porsche laugh. Lukas Kunze says the story is "ridiculous". In total, they had only sold around 1,500 Porsche Cayennes in Greece since the launch of the luxury car nine years ago.

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protected by Community Nov 13 '11 at 17:58

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